Monday, April 2, 2012
Mike Butler: Secret treaty deals not acceptable
A secret briefing on the deal to give $13.8-million of land in Devonport to Ngati Whatua, revealed at a public meeting at the Devonport Navy Gym on Saturday, has infuriated Auckland Mayor Len Brown, and has sharpened a feeling of injustice in the North Shore community.
A copy of the secret briefing to the Hauraki Gulf Forum was used to berate Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and National Party MPs, according to news reports. Takapuna-Devonport Local Board chairman Chris Darby revealed the secret briefing. Finlayson, who tried to explain that the deal to give Ngati Whatua the 3.2ha of land had been done transparently, appears to think that secret deals are quite normal.
Treaty negotiations ministers have been doing secret deals since 1989, followed by a rubber stamp bill passed through Parliament. This caused little problem when remote schools and farms were given away, but a big problem when a big chunk of a leafy suburb is involved.
The problem with this secret-deal approach is that communities aren’t told until agreements are signed and sealed. That means they can’t challenge the validity of a claim nor set the record straight on other related issues. In this case, the community had fought hard to gain reserve status for the Devonport land to protect it for future generations in public ownership. That should have meant that the land could never be sold or exploitation without the approval of the community. It is no wonder local residents feel so violated.
Last year the government extended secret deal-making to cover coastal areas being claimed under the new Marine and Coastal Area Bill. This will mean that this sort of community anger could become commonplace if the public suddenly find that their local beaches have been given away and areas declared wahi tapu to exclude public access, without their knowledge.
Secret deals are an anathema to open democracy and transparency. Any iwi claims to local land and resources must be discussed with the local community before the deals are signed and sealed. Locals, whose lives will be impacted by such decisions, deserve to know what is going on. Secret deals should no longer be tolerated.
at 2:37 PM